Living in Sri Lanka
This is intended to supplement the Sri Lanka Travel Advice which is primarily aimed at short term visitors.
This guide sets out essential information for British nationals residing in Sri Lanka, including advice on health, education, residence requirements and more. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below. See our information on what consulates can and cannot do for British Nationals. This information supplements the travel advice for Sri Lanka.
Many standards applied to life in the United Kingdom are not applicable in Sri Lanka, especially with reference to religion. We estimate that there are up to 20,000 British nationals residing in Sri Lanka, many of whom are dual nationals and approximately 110,000 British nationals visiting Sri Lanka annually.
You should ensure that you have adequate medical insurance as free medical care is not generally available for foreigners and the cost of hospitalisation in private hospitals can be very expensive. Medical facilities are good in major cities, but limited in rural areas. However, there are some endemic diseases in Sri Lanka, including malaria and dengue in low lying areas. Immediate cash payment could be required for any medical service. Except for local government hospitals most reputed private hospitals do accept payments by credit card. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/list-of-hospitals
There are government run schools which are available either free of charge or for a nominal fee. Check the Sri Lanka Ministry of Education for more information. However, most expatriates who choose to educate their children in Sri Lanka send them to International (private) schools. Most of these international schools follow the UK (Cambridge/Edexcel) curriculum. There are a range of international, and one British school in Sri Lanka. Most of these schools are located in Colombo.
Entry and residence requirements
British nationals intending to visit or reside in Sri Lanka must be in possession of the necessary visa. Information regarding visas to Sri Lanka can be found on the Department of Immigration and Emigration website.
Driving licences and vehicles
Sri Lanka drives on the left. International driving licences are valid for driving in Sri Lanka. However UK drivers licence holders have to apply for a Sri Lanka driving licence. To arrange for a local licence, you will need to contact the Department of Motor vehicles. Road conditions and driving standards in Sri Lanka can be challenging. At the scene of an accident crowds can gather quickly and tempers can fray, potentially leading to confrontation. If involved in an accident call the police immediately and remain calm. Vehicle insurance is mandatory under Sri Lankan law; a fact that should be borne in mind should you be involved in an accident.
Property and property disputes
You should take legal advice before entering into any agreement over the ownership or use of property or other assets. Disputes over property ownership are common in Sri Lanka. However, these are civil matters and the British high commission cannot intervene in these matters. Consular staff are not legally trained and cannot, therefore, offer legal advice. If you are unable to reach an amicable solution to the situation, you may wish to consider taking legal advice and engaging a lawyer to act on your behalf. It may be necessary to take legal action through courts in order to achieve a lasting resolution to the disagreement. Legal proceedings in Sri Lanka can be expensive and a long drawn out process. See Sri Lanka – List of Lawyers
Social ethics and customs
You should respect local customs and sensitivities at all times, or if you intend to visit religious areas. Apart from traditional clothing like sari and sarong majority of Sri Lankans wear western clothing; however men and women should cover their shoulders and legs when visiting temples or religious sites. Body art or tattoos of Lord Buddha are strictly prohibited and you can be arrested or deported if you are seen with one.
This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British High Commission will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.